Red Tomato Mulch Experiment in CGG

Red Tomato Mulch Experiment in CGG
By: Lily Hatrick

The volunteers of the Common Good Garden (CGG), under the leadership of Common Good Garden Coordinator Dev Culver, are trying a mulching experiment on the tomato plants this season.

The tomatoes were planted in rows with a PVC pipe structure built to prevent the tomatoes from resting on the ground. After planting the tomatoes, a Master Gardener Volunteer and CGG volunteer, suggested using red “mulch” as it is beneficial for improving the growth of tomatoes. It was a bit tricky to install the red “mulch” after the tomatoes were already in the ground, but the challenge was taken up by the volunteer work team.

Researchers at Clemson University report that red “mulch” has a measurable impact on tomato plant productivity. Red “mulch” reflects sunlight back onto the tomato plant amplifying the green light spectrum. Amplifying the green light spectrum encourages tomato plants to grow leaves faster and in turn provides an earlier and larger fruit crop. The light reflected onto the plant triggers the release of a specific plant protein. This protein causes the crop yield to increase and reportedly makes the tomatoes even more delicious.

Mulch has the added benefits of suppressing weeds that compete with plants for nutrients, creating a warmer soil environment and increasing water retention decreasing the need for frequent watering. To test the impact of red “mulch”, the volunteers have one row of tomatoes set up using black plastic cover.  This row will serve as our control group in this experiment. Next time you are at the TSCG, drop by and take a look at the red “mulch” experiment.

Lily Hatrick is a rising junior at Brunswick High School (BHS).  In April she joined the team of volunteers that farm the Common Good Garden at TSCG.  Lily and Dev are working together to develop Lily’s volunteer time into an experiential learning program supported by BHS.